With flags flapping in the breeze and the honor guard standing at attention, ceremonies to remember those lost in service to their country were staged Monday morning at Burwood Cemetery in Escalon.
Off River Road between Riverbank and Escalon, the ceremony drew a large contingent of veterans, family members of service members, and the community, all gathering to pay their respects.
“One word,” keynote speaker Pastor Bruce Persenaire of Escalon Christian Reformed Church said of what he was thinking on Monday. “That word is sacrifice. That’s why we are here…we are here to remember those who sacrificed for our country.”
By laying down their lives to protect our freedoms, Persenaire said fallen military personnel paid the ultimate price and we are the beneficiaries.
“We need to not only thank them, but remember them and remember what they did,” Persenaire told the crowd. “I honor them today as I know you do, too.”
Bob Rucker, representing both Rep. Jeff Denham and Assembly member Kristin Olsen, said there have been more than 60,000 Stanislaus and San Joaquin County residents who have served in the military since the Second World War.
“We cannot thank them enough,” Rucker said.
Serving as emcee for the event was Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263 Commander Curtis Vaughn, who also is the Second Vice Commander for District 11, encompassing San Joaquin, Calaveras and Amador counties.
On hand for the ceremony was Ralph Verschoor, a longtime Escalon resident and member of the local American Legion Post, who was saluted at the May 20 San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors meeting, one of several area veterans to earn the special honor.
Verschoor, who served in World War II in the Philippines and then spent a year in Japan as a medic following the war, was an Army Paratrooper. Once he came home, he got busy making a difference in his community.
“I was a charter member of the Escalon Christian Reformed Church, started it in 1949,” Verschoor said. “I was on the first city council in Escalon in 1957, was the city’s third mayor, helped start the Escalon Community Ambulance.”
Also, the 88-year-old owned and operated Ralph’s Garage for many years and said he was surprised, pleased and humbled to be honored at the county level.
“I had a wonderful wife for 58 years,” he added. “I have four kids, 18 grandkids and 14 great grandkids.”
Verschoor is also a member of the Legion Post Honor Guard and remains active.
Special recognition at Monday’s services also went to 94-year-old Adeline Ellison of Modesto, a WASP (Women’s Air Force Service Pilot) who flew bombers during World War II; in addition to longtime members of Post 263, chaplain Jay Davis, past commander Ken Miller and the Johnson brothers, Craig, Richard and Albert, who all served in the military.
A memorial wreath was placed, the flag lowered to half-staff, a 21-gun salute presented and Taps played to adjourn the ceremonies.